Your ancestors were eaten by hyenas

Homo heidelbergensis skull, Broken Hill 1

Homo heidelbergensis skull. This is the Broken Hill 1 (Kabwe 1) fossil skull, originally classified as Homo rhodesiensis (Rhodesian Man). It was discovered in 1921 in Broken Hill, Northern Rhodesia (present-day Kwabe, Zambia). The first early human fossil found in Africa, it is thought to be between 125,000 and 300,000 years old. H. heidelbergensis is an extinct hominin species from the same genus as modern humans.

Source: BBC

By Melissa Hogenboom

29 April 2016

Five hundred thousand years ago a hyena was munching on the remains of one of our early human ancestors.

It was damaged, broken and had been chewed

More specifically, it was tucking into the thigh bone of an individual believed to belong to the prehistoric species Homo rhodesiensis,thought to be the common ancestor of both our species and the Neanderthals.

The human remains were found resting in a cave in the suburbs of what is now Casablanca in Morocco, an area known to be rich in fossils.

The femur bone was uncovered in a layer of sediment known to be half a million years old. It was unearthed in excavations in 1994 but only “rediscovered” over a decade later.

Various fractures and bite marks reveal a carnivore was chewing on this femur bone

Various fractures and bite marks reveal a carnivore was chewing on this femur bone (Credit: C. Daujeard)

“It was damaged, broken and had been chewed,” says Jean-Jacques Hublin of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

Such was the damage that it was not even immediately identified as an early human fossil. “On second look we saw it was a human femur,” he says.

The team performed detailed analysis of the tooth marks – which were observed at both ends of the bone – to understand more about the fate of the early human it belonged to.

The dimensions of the tooth marks suggest they were made by a large carnivore.

Several puncture wounds were clearly visible (Credit: C. Daujeard)

Several puncture wounds were clearly visible (Credit: C. Daujeard)

Fossil evidence from the cave shows it was also a lair for extinct relatives of modern hyenas – although not at the same time that early humans occupied the cave.

The presence of carnivore tooth-marks on human remains is not sufficient to demonstrate predation

“It looks like the cave has been used by humans and also carnivores, so there is a physical proximity between the two groups,” says Hublin.

Putting two and two together, it makes sense that an ancient hyena caused the damage, the team report in journal PLOS ONE.

The exact form of the bone fractures is also most consistent with damage by a hyena, says lead author Camilla Daujeard from the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France.

Read more

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.